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A few months ago on 3 Chicks Review Comics we interviewed the fabulous Majorie Liu about here work in comics and the challenge of female led books prompted by the cancellation of X-23. She told us about a pitch she had done to Marvel with Mike Perkins for an all-female team. You can hear her talk about it here.
Yesterday BC posted some of the artwork that Perkins developed for the concept and it looks amazing. Here’s a glimpse:
Awesome characters. Terrific writer. And look at the art.
Marvel didn’t pick it up because they didn’t think it would sell.
Why is that?
Recently Gail Simone said she also had pitched an all-female team. This would have been younger characters, high school age, including Stephanie Brown. That pitch was also shot down.
The most successful all-female team book has been the Birds of Prey, created by Jordan Gorfinkel and written longest by Chuck Dixon and Gail Simone. The team originally consisted of Black Canary and Oracle and later added Huntress and Lady Blackhawk. The book ran for a decade, was made into a TV show and has been called an “on-ramp” for female comic readers. But with that long a run the book also had to have a male readership as well.
When the book relaunched in 2010 under the Brightest Day banner, it was no longer an all-female team. Hawk (and Dove) were added to the team. I found the addition of the Hawk added nothing to the book and led to a situation with too many characters with too little page time (and even at that the biggest issue was a revolving door of artists).
Despite good sales that volume of the book was given the chop in the new 52. DC took another run with the title in its reboot/relaunch last year and created a new team which was once again all women. Sales on the newest volume of Birds of Prey, however, are below the two previous volumes. Not sure why, I’ve enjoyed the book, it has different vibe than Simone’s take, but I think it’s a book I’d put on the + list for new 52. (Although frankly no Birds of Prey will equal the book when Oracle was a character for me. But you knew that right?) But with solicit for issue 15 revealed earlier this week it appears the team is adding a male character. I hope it doesn’t. I like having at least one book that focuses on the females working together.
If that is true then it leaves DC with two all-female team books Worlds’ Finest and Ame-Comi Girls, a digital offering. And they offer drastically different experiences.
I’m both surprised and pleased with how well Worlds’ Finest, starring Huntress and Power Girl, has been doing sales wise. Last month it was in the top 50 and sold more than Red Hood and the Outlaws, another team book deemed a success in the new 52. I like the book but the overall writing and art are not infinitely better than other books, including the Birds of Prey, so why is this one a success? Is it the characters? Is it the team (Levitz has a pretty strong fan base of readers as does the art team).
And as far as Ame-Comi Girls while I’ve enjoyed the comic (some arcs more than others) it is also a book whose characters are based on “sexy” Anime versions of traditional female superheroes. Let me put it another way — there is a lot of titastic and buttastic art to get through for the virtues of the writing on the book.
Some of this is puzzling. Why does Worlds’ Finest and other female led books such as Batwoman, Wonder Woman and Batgirl deliver good mid-tier sales but Marvel struggles? Why is Worlds’ Finest and Ame-Comi Girls given the green light and Liu and Gail Simone’s pitch not? What IS it that makes editorial think one thing will sell another won’t? What does it take to be successful?
To be fair, Marvel has taken a few shots at all-female female teams, She-Hulks comes to mind as well as Heralds. But there is not question the company has has struggled with female led books. Perhaps Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel may change that.
I know I would have read the hell out of the Liu/Perkins book but what I think matters very little, as it’s pretty clear I’m not the audience that DC or Marvel give a rat’s ass about.
So I’m opening up the question to those who fall into the folks that DC and Marvel does want. Tell me, males 18-34, do you or will you read all-female team books? If not, why? Just a suggestion, if your comment includes the words “reverse sexism” you might want to think about it a bit more.
Those who aren’t among are part of the valued demographic feel free to weigh in as well.
Also I’ll add this one note. I read that Cartoon Network might bring back Powerpuff Girls one of my favorite all-female teams. I’m thrilled. Now if we can just get an all-ages Super Best Friends Forever comic!